Page 9, 13th September 2002

13th September 2002
Page 9
Page 9, 13th September 2002 — Was Rosmini an authentic Catholic philosopher?

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Organisations: Rationalist


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Was Rosmini an authentic Catholic philosopher?

From Mr Gerard Hanratty Sir, Fr Cunningham makes the extraordinary observation that "many consider Rosmini as the greatest Catholic philosopher" (Charterhouse Chronicle, Aug. 30).

Whilst I have heard it said, of Antonio Rosmini, that he was a philosopher of considerable standing I have never (until very recently) heard it said that some people actually believe him to be greater than the Angelic Doctor. Indeed, some informed Catholic commentators would go so far as to say that he was not an authentic Catholic philosopher at all.

Rosmini was not by any means the only "religious" philosopher who attempted to make Christianity acceptable to post-Enlightenment culture. However, in the course of attempting to do so (and like others) he did effectively diminish certain aspects of Dogmatic truth. For this reason he merited the censure of a number of Catholic philosophers and theologians. They viewed his "synthesis" as constituting too much of a concession to the Rationalist movement.

The flaw in Rosmini's approach lay in his attempt to defend Catholicism against its Kantian opponents. His intention was laudable; his proposed solution was not. Instead of attempting to undermine the central tenets of the Kantian system, he tried to partially absorb them and re-present them in a Catholic apologetic mould. Most importantly, he considered it possible to obtain knowledge of God within Kant's alleged "cognitive structures". This was despite Kant's view that one could not obtain any true knowledge of God within his own cognitive structures (as he conceived of them in his three Critiques).

The distinguished philosopher Alasdair McIntyre is in no doubt about the corrosive effect that this was to have on the Church in later years: "Rosmini's attempt to render Catholic theology acceptable to modern thought fails. Insofar as it was made acceptable, it ceased to be Catholic theology, and insofar as it was Catholic theology, it failed to be philosophically acceptable by the standards of Kantian or post-Kantian modernity. And in this respect Rosmini was the forerunner both of much of the Catholic modernism of the early twentieth century and of most fashionable Catholic thought since Vatican II."

Yours faithfully, GERARD HANRATTY London, SW10

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